Vehicle Towing Capacity Guide

If you're an American, chances are you've seen truck commercials with Sam Elliot's voice-over at some point. By law, each commercial must include his drawl to detail the capacities for towing and payload as well as offroading. This is captivating and has helped sell many trucks in recent decades.

sam Elliot's a great American actor, but his confusing math speech in those commercials doesn't help anyone trying to understand what all those numbers mean. A big number often thrown around when discussing trucks is their towing capacity- everyone seems to think they need a truck that can tow the space shuttle just so they can haul an aluminum bass boat! However, how much power do you actually need and how are those numbers determined?

What is Towing Capacity?

Towing capacity is how much weight your truck can safely tow. In other words, it's the maximum amount you're able to hook up to your truck without fear of breaking the suspension, ripping off part of the frame, voiding the warranty, and becoming an internet sensation for negative reasons.

How Do You Calculate Towing Capacity?

To calculate your truck's towing capacity, simply subtract the curb weight from the GCVWR. This is the maximum amount your truck can tow.

What Is GCVWR?

GCVWR, or "gross combined vehicle weight rating" is different than GVWR. GCVWR encompasses the pickup truck's GVWR and the trailer's GVWCR.

What Is GVWR?

GVWR is an acronym for gross vehicle weight rating which Warning, your truck isn't designed to go over this! refers to the maximum poundage. In other words, it's the max weight before everything goes caput.

The GVWR number is determined by manufacturers through testing the structural soundness of your truck’s suspension components, tires, wheels, body, frame and bed. You can find your truck’s GVWR in the owner's manual stored in your glove compartment, on the B-Pillar Vehicle identification plate or else on the manufacturer’s website. As for the trailer's Gvwr number, you can locate it on either the manufacturer's website or within its own manual.

What Is Curb Weight?

The curb weight of your truck is the full weight of the vehicle without anything inside or on it. This includes you, your family, pets, and any luggage or recreational gear you normally bring with you. However, all necessary fluids that keep the truck running smoothly are included in the weigh -- such as gas, oil, and radiator fluid.

You can find out what your truck's curb weight by checking either the manual stored in your glove box or on the manufacturer's website.

Why Is Towing Capacity Used?

In short, towing capacity is significant for truck owners because it means the difference between bringing your boat or racecar home and going viral on Twitter after flipping your vehicle—we hear that's trending this time of year.

Your truck can become overloaded very easily if you're not careful. This puts stress on various parts of your vehicle, including the suspension and frame, which could lead to buckling or failure. Additionally, your steering and braking won't work as effectively when there's too much weight in the front end of your car from a heavy load.

Try to picture Timothée Chalamet in rollerblades, trying to tow two Chicago Bears' linebackers across a basketball court. Not happening, right? His back would snap like a twig. Now imagine Dwayne Johnson doing the same thing while wearing Under Armour sneakers; he'd get them there easily. That's because the difference in towing capacity ratings between something like the Ford Ranger and Ford F-250 is similarly vast.